How To Swap Household Items for Weights and Other Workout Gear

April 27, 2020 - 11 minutes read

No workout gear? No problem. Here’s how to turn ordinary household items into at-home fitness equipment.

If you’re looking to work out from home but don’t know how to complete your gym routine without your regular equipment, a little creativity can go a long way. By looking no further than a few household items that are already lying around your space, you can easily build your own functional gym and get an effective strength-training workout without the need to purchase any additional equipment.

1. A rug, carpet or blanket as a replacement for a yoga mat

A little cushion under your body is always a nice touch while you perform core work or a stretching routine. If you want the yoga mat experience but don’t have access to one at home, set yourself up on the rug in your living room, your bedroom carpet or on a soft blanket laid down on the hardwood floor.

A few great core exercises to try while you’re down here might include planks, bicycles, leg drops or bear hovers.

Featured Resource: Free At-Home Bodyweight Workout Plan

2. A chair or a couch as a replacement for a bench

A dining room chair or even your living room couch can make an excellent substitute for your typical workout bench. Whichever option you choose to use, just be sure that it’s sturdy, stationary and, if possible, pushed up against a wall for a little added support.

To use your new bench for some upper body work, try out a set of tricep dips, hand-elevated pushups or foot-elevated pushups then, when you’re ready to move into your lower body, add a round of bulgarian split squats, step ups or side-elevated lateral lunges.

3. A countertop as a replacement for a high box

If the couch is a little low for your liking, the kitchen counter is another great alternative to strengthen your arms and chest with a round of hand-elevated pushups. Sneak in a set as you’re cooking dinner or make a point of counting out a few reps every time you head to the fridge for a snack throughout the day.

4. A towel as a replacement for a resistance band or slider

Who knew that household textiles could be so versatile? With the ability to be transformed into both a strengthening tool and a stretching aid, a simple hand towel is a great addition to your growing home gym.

In terms of strengthening, try using a dish towel as a resistance band by holding one end in each hand then setting up for the exercise. Determine which arm is going to perform the exercise and which is going to provide the resistance, then go through the movement while providing an appropriate level of resistance with the other hand. This is great for tricep kickbacks, rows and lat pulldowns. Additionally, you can use a face towel as a floor slider by placing it under your hand(s) or foot (feet) on a flat surface and performing sliding exercises like plank saw-backs, slide-back lunges or kneeling adductions.

5. Soup cans, water jugs, beer growlers or laundry detergent bottles as a replacement for dumbbells

To add a bit more variety to your hand-held options, take a look through the cupboards to see what you have available. Opt for a couple soup cans to create a set of 2lb dumbbells and a pair of water jugs or laundry detergent bottles to act as your 5-8lb weights.

Once you have your weights, use these in the same way that you would a set of dumbbells and try out some shoulder exercises such as front raises, tricep kickbacks, bicep curls, high rows or overhead presses.

6. A duffle bag full of books as a replacement for a sandbag

Need to add some heavy weights to your lower body movements? Grab a duffle bag or suitcase and fill it with heavy items around the house such as clothes, books or bags of sugar, flour or rice.

Once you have the bag weighted to your liking, try bringing it up to chest level and performing front-weighted movements like a squat, a good morning and a goblet lunge. Additionally, you can hold it in front of your hips for a weighted deadlift or throw it over your shoulder for an offset squat or a turkish getup.

7. Bags of flour in a grocery tote as a replacement for a kettle bell or medicine ball

Much like the sandbag option above, you can create your very own kettle bell or medicine ball with as little as a couple of heavy bags of sugar or flour and a reusable grocery bag. Start by placing the kitchen goods into the bag then tie the handles tightly to compress the item(s) inside. If you choose to hold onto the handles, you’ve got yourself your very own kettle bell. If you prefer to hold it around the belly, voila – there’s your medicine ball!

Use the kettle bell configuration for exercises like a half-kneeling overhead press, turkish getup and bent-over rows, or switch to the medicine ball option for a set of russian twists, weighted v-ups or split squat rotations.

8. A cast-iron pan as a replacement for a weight plate

Ever notice how heavy your Le Creuset style pots and pans are? These make a great replacement for weight plates and can be used in a number of different ways to add resistance to your workouts.

By holding a heavy cast-iron pan in both hands at chest-level, you can perform a goblet squat or lunge, seated Russian twists, or overhead front presses. Bring the pan down in front of your body and you can set up for some two-handed bent-over rows, single leg deadlifts or chops.

9. A set of stairs as a replacement for cardio machines

If you live in a multi-storey house or any floor of an apartment building, you have access to one of the best conditioning tools out there. Often used for cardio training by top athletes, stairs are a great way to get the heart rate up, build endurance, and actively tone the hamstrings and glutes.

To use your steps as a cardio booster, try walking or running up the steps either 1, 2 or 3 stairs at a time, depending on your leg span and how much you want to challenge yourself. If it’s more stationary exercise you’re looking for, bulgarian split squats, elevated pushups and lateral step-ups are also a great fit for the varying step heights.

10. A wall as a replacement for…a wall

Well this one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Just as you can do wall-work at the gym, you can perform the exact same exercises at home.

Find a bare wall within your house (or take down a couple of framed photos for a few minutes to create one) and try out a set of wall sit holds, wall angels or side planks with your back against the wall. You can also do some supine hamstring stretches on the inside of a door frame or some down-dog shoulder taps with your hands butted up against the wall to include a bit of shoulder stabilization work.

11. A rolling pin as a replacement for a stick roller

Feeling a bit tight but don’t have a stick roller or foam roller handy? Another great kitchen utensil to do double-duty is a basic rolling pin. Use it to massage out tight muscles along your calves, shins, quads and hips or ask your partner or family member to help out with a roll through your upper traps.

The take away

Having access to the best at-home gym equipment is a nice perk to add to your workouts, but it isn’t a requirement in order for you to still get in a great, challenging workout in your living room. With a wide range of bodyweight exercises available for you to progress through as well as a ton of equipment alternatives floating around your space, working out at home has never been simpler or more convenient and is a great way to stay on track when you can’t make it into the gym.

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